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Foodways on two colonial whaling stations: archaeological and historical evidence for diet in nineteenth-century Tasmania.

Food is of central importance to culture. Its nutritional properties sustain life while the acquisition, preparation and consumption of food represent significant amounts of time and economic activity. Symbolically, the rituals and meanings surrounding food are among the most powerful in any culture. (1) Despite the cultural importance of food, the study of colonial Australian diet and foodways, or how food was prepared, served, and consumed, has not received a great deal of attention. With a few notable exceptions, (2) historians and historical archaeologists have generally ignored questions regarding food in favour of other subjects. The wealth of data on colonial foodways which exists in archives and archaeological sites remains largely unexplored. The aim of the present study is to contribute to understandings of food in colonial Australia by analysing documentary and archaeological evidence of diet at two archaeological sites in Tasmania. Evidence concerning these sites, both shore whaling stations occupied in the 1830s and 1840s, has the potential to shed light on what was eaten there but also on broader issues including the availability of various edible commodities in the colony, mechanisms by which foodstuffs were produced and distributed, inter-colonial and overseas trade, tradition and innovation in colonial food practices, and the particular circumstances of land-based maritime industries.

The impetus for this study comes from the recovery of large quantities of food-related items during the archaeological excavation of whaling stations at Adventure Bay, Bruny Island, and Lagoon Bay, Forestier Peninsula (Figure 1). Artefacts included animal bones--the debris from countless meals eaten at the sites--as well as broken pieces of bottles and jars and wooden casks that had once contained food and drink, and fragments of the china dishes and glassware that had been used to set the tables. While documentary information on the lives of shore whalers is not plentiful, these two sites are better served than many because the papers of Captain James Kelly, the man who owned both stations, have been preserved in the Crowther Collection in the State Library of Tasmania. This has led to a rare opportunity to assess not only what was being purchased for the stations but also what was actually being consumed there.



In nineteenth century Van Diemen's Land the whaling industry was of considerable economic and social importance. (3) The sale of whale oil and baleen (strips of keratinous tissue from the mouth of the whale, used in corset manufacture and other applications) was the colony's largest source of export income in the 1830s, while many of the colony's leading business figures were men with connections to whaling and related maritime industries. Whaling entrepreneurs like James Kelly were responsible for establishing the Hobart Regatta and for developing the shipping facilities around Salamanca Place. As one of the few industries forbidden by law to use convict labour, whaling provided a source of employment for freeborn colonial youth. Until bankrupted by the economic collapse of the 1840s and the near-eradication of the herds of southern right whales, Kelly was at the forefront of these activities. The stations at Adventure Bay and Lagoon Bay were but two of his many enterprises which included farms, blocks of land and commercial properties in central Hobart, a string of whaling stations in Van Diemen's Land, and a fleet of ships that hunted whales off New Zealand, New South Wales and Victoria and carried the products to London for sale.

Shore whaling provided a lucrative source of income for colonial entrepreneurs because it required less initial capital than other forms of maritime activity and it produced a rapid return on investment. It centred on hunting the southern right whale (Balaena glacialis), a species which migrated through the shallow coastal waters of southern Australia during the winter months. Men made camps in the sheltered coves where the whales fed and the crews could put out from shore in open boats, kill the whales, and bring the carcasses back to shore for processing. The whale crews and their supplies were taken to the stations by ship at the beginning of the season and they and the oil and whalebone picked up again several months later when the season was finished. Over the winter months crews of up to thirty men lived in timber barracks with stone fireplaces, spending most of their days at sea. When whales were taken the blubber was stripped and then melted in large iron cauldrons (trypots) placed on brick and stone hearths built above the high tide mark.

While whaling of this kind took place around the Australian coast from Western Australia to New South Wales, archaeological evidence is particularly abundant in Tasmania. (4) The two sites discussed here, at Adventure Bay and Lagoon Bay, were both owned by Kelly in partnership with other Hobart businessmen. (5) Kelly had been involved in sealing and whaling for a decade before he went into business with Thomas Lucas at Adventure Bay in 1829. Lucas, another Hobart business owner, had been whaling there since 1825, possibly from ships moored in the bay. The opening of the shore station was the beginning of a partnership with Kelly that lasted into the mid-1830s and included the joint ownership of a brig, the Mary and Elizabeth, and the license to a whaling station near Kelly's farm on the northern end of Bruny Island. When the partnership with Lucas was dissolved Kelly obtained financial backing from Thomas Hewitt, the colonial agent for the London firm of John Gore and Co., and a major source of English capital in the colony. Kelly had a long relationship both with Hewitt's firm, which acted as Kelly's agent in London, and with Hewitt himself. In the 1830s and 1840s the two men jointly owned a variety of ships, including the Amity and the Prince of Denmark. The two took up leases for whaling stations first at Recherche Bay and then at Lagoon Bay and Gardener's Bay on the Forestier Peninsula.

The site on Bruny Island is located on the south-eastern tip of Adventure Bay. In the 1820s and 1830s the station was part of the small but flourishing community of Cooktown, a collection of four shore whaling stations arrayed along the southern shore of the bay. Home to between eighty and ninety men during the winter whaling season, the settlement was accessible only by sea. However, this did not mean it was isolated, as the bay faced the main sea road up the Derwent to Hobart. In 1837 James Kelly and Richard Pybus wrote of `the great traffic by boats from thirty to forty in number daily to and fro passing the island'. (6) Although a road now reaches the township of Adventure Bay, the former whaling stations on the south shore are still accessible only by small boat or along a narrow coastal track. Kelly and Lucas' station, which operated from at least 1829 until approximately 1841, is located on a series of shallow terraces rising above a narrow cobbled beach (Figure 2). The lower terraces nearest the beach are open and grassy while those behind are covered in a dry forest of melaleuca and other eucalypts. Excavations at the site were carried out in 1997, and uncovered the remains of the tryworks, the crew barracks, and the quarters of the senior headsman who managed the station. (7) Artefacts were recovered from shallow scatters of refuse inside and outside the buildings.


The site at Lagoon Bay was more isolated in the past and continues to be so today. Located on private land, there has never been road access to the site. Access has always been by sea, but it is more distant from Hobart than is Adventure Bay, as the site is on the east coast of the Forestier Penninsula. The establishment of the station in 1838 brought Kelly and Hewitt into conflict with Dr. Alexander Imlay, the brother of Peter and George Imlay of Twofold Bay and another prominent whaler and entrepreneur. Imlay had recently purchased a farm with frontage on Lagoon Bay in order to establish his own whaling station, and although he protested about his new neighbours, his claims were over-ruled and the station remained. More problematic was the proximity to Port Arthur, and in 1842 the government forced the closure of all whaling stations on the peninsula. (8) Kelly and Hewitt again applied for a three year lease in 1848, and archaeological evidence indicates that the station was re-occupied for at least one more season at that time. The station tryworks and boatsheds are in a small cove opening to the north-east with the crew quarters on a headland twenty metres above the beach. The area is now open and grassy, with dry coastal forest covering the steeply sloping hills behind the headland. Excavations were carried out in 1999 and as at Adventure Bay focused on the crew barracks and the quarters of the senior headsman, with artefacts recovered from shallow accumulations of refuse in and around the buildings (Figure 3).


Unfortunately, neither archaeological nor historical evidence is sufficient to identify the crews at these sites. Men who signed on as crew aboard whaling ships during this period entered the documentary record when they signed the formal crew agreements that stipulated their wages and conditions. Analysis of these documents has shown that men frequently remained in the industry for many years, working for several owners and aboard a variety of ships. (9) Although there are no surviving crew agreements for Kelly's shore whaling stations, the agreements for the 1836 voyages of his ships Marianne and Amity record the names of men who worked for Kelly over a long period, and who may have worked at his stations at Adventure Bay or Lagoon Bay. (10) These names included the Master and senior headsman of the Amity, William Mansfield, his brother John, and another relative, William. Mr C. Woodgate was the cooper, Michael Dunn the carpenter, and J. Smith the cook on that voyage. Aboard the Marianne that same season Kelly employed two Polynesian men, John Tehawa, and Peter Etaha, a Maori, Bill the Moury, Christian Petersen, a Scandinavian, Antonio Corea from the Azores, and the American John Tare.

There is no documentary or archaeological evidence that European women were present, although it is known that Aboriginal women lived at the Adventure Bay station for several weeks in 1829. (11) Tasmanian Aboriginal men like William Lanne worked on whaling ships, but it appears to have been less common for them to work on shore stations in Tasmania, even though Aboriginal men joined shore whaling crews in many other parts of Australia, particularly in New South Wales and Western Australia. When the station at Adventure Bay was established in 1829 many of the local Nuenone people had already been killed, and George Augustus Robinson removed the survivors to the Tasmanian mainland that same year. By the time the Lagoon Bay station was established in 1838 the surrounding country had also been depopulated by the Tasmanian wars of a decade earlier. During the archaeological analysis care has been taken to identify Aboriginal contributions to the artefact assemblage. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council has requested that research regarding Aboriginal involvement at the stations not be pursued. This request has been honoured and there will be no further discussion of Aboriginal materials here.

The foods consumed

There is evidence for a variety of foods being consumed at the two sites. Meat and bread seem to have been the staples, but they were eaten with vegetables and flavoured with condiments. It was all washed down with sweetened tea, while alcohol was also consumed on occasion. The range of foods eaten reflects what was also available to other colonists at the time and indicates the nature of the sources from which individual consumers were able to obtain groceries and fresh foods.

Following maritime practices, the quantity and type of food provided to the whaling crews at the shore stations was most likely stipulated in a formal agreement made between the station owners and the crew members when the men were hired at the beginning of each season. For ships' crews, food was counted as an advance on wages, and was deducted from each man's `lay', or share of the catch, at the end of the season. (12) Surviving agreements among Kelly's papers record that each week he was to supply each man with twelve pounds of flour or bread, twelve pounds of beef or mutton, or ten pounds of pork, two pounds of sugar and 1/3 pound of tea. (13)

The meat component of the diet at the shore stations is very prominent in the archaeological evidence. Of the 173.9 kg of artefacts recovered from the two sites, 88.8 kg, or fifty-one percent, was bone. Partly this is because bone preserves well archaeologically while other foods such as grains, fruits, and vegetables, survive only in small quantities if at all. However, it is probable that meat did form a major portion of the diet. It has been calculated that colonial Australians ate as much as 270 lbs of meat annually, compared with the British diet of only 109 lbs per person each year. (14) Meat is also prominent in the rations provided to sailors. Sailors in the British navy at this time received six lbs of salt beef and pork a week. (15) Kelly provided the crews on his ships with double that amount, comfortably more meat than the pound per person per day allotted to convicts, and a great deal more than that consumed by the average worker in Britain or Ireland. (16) Kelly himself was a sea captain and many of those working on his ships also worked for him at his shore stations. It appears that in several respects Kelly ran his stations much as he ran his ships, with crew members subject to similar agreements regarding wages and working conditions. It is not therefore surprising that like whaling crews at sea, whaling crews on shore ate a great deal of meat.

Many kinds of animals, birds, and fish were represented in the bone excavated (Table 1). Only ten percent of the bone fragments recovered were from animals native to the area, and of those only eight percent had cut marks on them consistent with their having been butchered and eaten. (17) Further, several of the species were too small to have been considered a source of food. Mutton birds however were reportedly a favourite with whalers, and were taken whenever possible. (18) So while it appears that there was some hunting and fishing taking place, wild game forms a small part of the bone assemblage overall, and it cannot be assumed that all of the non-European animals found were part of the diet. Some of the native animals may have been killed by non-human predators, or may have been hunted for their skins. Although the quantity of native species eaten was small, it is nevertheless considerably greater than in early Sydney. Archaeological analysis of bones from the Cumberland/Gloucester Street site in the Rocks revealed only two bones from native species out of 125 000 bones catalogued. (19) It may be that in this regard the whalers were more adventurous than their urban contemporaries, or simply that the whalers had more opportunity to obtain game.

Most of the bone excavated was from domestic animals, indicating that the familiar foods mutton, beef, and pork were those most commonly eaten. Of these, the greatest quantity of bone was sheep and cattle. At Adventure Bay each accounted for forty-six percent of the bone from domestic animals, while at Lagoon Bay fifty-six percent of the bone was sheep and forty percent was cattle. Pork was a distant third, comprising only five percent of the Adventure Bay assemblage and three percent at Lagoon Bay, but if pork was eaten as bacon, it would not appear in the archaeological record because of the lack of bone.

Archaeological analysis indicates that much of the beef and probably all of the pork eaten at the stations were salted meats, although the mutton was from sheep butchered nearby. When animals are killed and butchered near where they are eaten, bones from every part of the animal are found, including those without much food value such as heads and feet. This was the case with the sheep bone and some of the cattle bone found at the archaeological sites. However, the pig bones showed a different pattern. Only the meatier bones were found, which suggests that these animals were butchered elsewhere and the waste bone left near the butchering site. If the pork and some of the beef was prepared away from the site, it must have been preserved before transport and salting was the common way of doing that. While it might be assumed that the bones were removed before the salted meat was packed in barrels, this is not what took place. Cargoes of meat from the Sydney Cove, wrecked in Bass Strait in 1797, and the William Salthouse, wrecked in Port Phillip Bay in 1841, have both been excavated and analysed, and in both cases the packed meat included bone. (20) The cuts of pork and beef found at Adventure Bay and Lagoon Bay correspond to the kinds of meat in those cargoes.

Based on documentary records it seems probable that the other major dietary staple was bread, but archaeological evidence for this has not survived. Bread was the largest component of the diet of working people in early nineteenth-century England, and as little meat was consumed, bread provided the bulk of protein and calories. (21) The official government ration for convicts in New South Wales in 1831 included twelve pounds of wheat and seven pounds of meat. Rations for pastoral workers and passengers on migrant ships provided for equal quantities of bread and meat. (22) James Kelly agreed to provide each of his crew members with twelve pounds of flour or bread every week. For those on board ship this was probably in the form of ships' biscuits, a hard unleavened bread that could be baked in advance and stored for months at sea in watertight wooden casks. Fresh bread was probably made regularly at the shore stations, and a visitor to one station recorded that damper baked in wood ash and doughboys fried in the boiling whale blubber were both regular fare. (23)

There is no archaeological evidence of vegetables either, although once again documentary records suggest that a variety were consumed. At sea sailors relied on stores of potatoes, onions and split peas, supplemented on long voyages by fresh fruit obtained where possible. On Pacific voyages ships resupplied with coconuts, bananas, breadfruit, oranges, and pineapples. (24) Vegetables were not included in Kelly' s list of crew rations, although potatoes, onions, and pickles are all mentioned in correspondence between Kelly and one of his captains shore whaling at Twofold Bay. George Meredith, who also owned several shore whaling stations in Tasmania, agreed to supply his crews with vegetables once a day. (25) In 1828 advice in the Hobart Town Courier suggested that the ideal location for a whaling station would include `good soil for gardens and good pasturage for cattle'. (26) Archaeological surveys of whaling stations in Tasmania have located several sites with cleared and levelled areas possibly used as gardens, some with the remains of stone enclosures. (27) At Adventure Bay and Lagoon Bay any evidence of such garden or stock enclosures has disappeared, and the analysis of plant remains in the soil was inconclusive. Although it may have been possible to cultivate gardens during slow periods, the men's purpose in being at these isolated locations was to catch and process whales so it is unlikely that they would have had much free time to devote to gardening. Colonial farms were sources of produce however, and Kelly was able to obtain fifteen hundredweight of potatoes from his own farm at the north end of Bruny Island on at least one occasion. (28)

In contrast to bread and vegetables, there is ample archaeological evidence of condiments, yet these do not appear in documentary records. Fragments of broken glass and ceramics recovered from the two sites include pieces of bottles and stoneware jars that would have contained pickles, sauces, or other flavourful foods (Table 2). The bottles are made of pale green glass, hand-blown in two-piece or dip moulds. They are square or rectangular, sometimes with chamfered corners, and have simple rolled lips that would have been sealed with a cork stopper (Figure 4). Popular pickled foods included olives, walnuts, gherkins, onions, and capers, which may have been sold in the stoneware jars. The widemouthed glass jars more likely contained powdered spices such as mustard or cayenne pepper, both of which were commonly mixed with vinegar or water at the table. (29) Spicy, sugary accompaniments such as these would have done much to enliven the otherwise bland diet of meat and bread, and vinegar and mustard were particularly favoured with salt meats.


There is also some evidence of the beverages consumed. Kelly's ration lists refer to a weekly allowance of one-third of a pound of tea for each man, and tea was certainly well-entrenched as part of both British and colonial diets by this time. (30) While neither the tea itself nor its packaging has survived archaeologically, numerous teacups were recovered from both sites, as well as fragments of a teapot at Lagoon Bay (Figures 5 and 6). As each of Kelly's crewmen were also allotted two pounds of sugar per week, it can be assumed that the tea was sweetened before drinking. Part of the sugar allowance may also have been used by the cook to bake cakes and other sweets.


Alcohol was certainly consumed on site, as indicated by the fragments of at least fifty-four beer, wine, and gin bottles recovered (Table 2). Determining the quantities and varieties consumed is difficult however. There is some indication that Kelly was on occasion making alcohol available to his crews, as when he purchased 71 gallons of rum in 1834 and 547 gallons of rum in 1836 for his whale ship Marianne, and in 1841 held 80 gallons of ale and 6 gallons of rum in store at Twofold Bay. (31) These beverages cannot be directly linked to the bottles recovered on site because of the colonial practice of re-using and recycling bottles. Until the establishment of colonial glassworks in the 1860s and 1870s, bottles were themselves valuable commodities that were collected and re-used after the consumption of their contents. The form of the bottle is therefore not necessarily a guide to contents, as recycled bottles could be used to hold a variety of products, including condiments and non-alcoholic drinks such as ginger beer. Bottles were also imported empty to at least some Australian colonies in order to meet local requirements. In addition to locally produced beverages, most imported alcohol was shipped in bulk for bottling at point of sale, and all of this contributed to the demand for bottles. (32)

Despite these factors, it can probably be assumed that if anything the bottle glass from Adventure Bay and Lagoon Bay under-represents the amount of alcohol consumed. Most of the alcohol on the sites was likely to have been stored in wooden casks rather than in bottles. Certainly Kelly's accounts indicate that he was buying in large quantities and measuring the amounts in gallons rather than bottles, which suggests that the alcohol was in casks. There is some archaeological evidence of casks as well, although their contents cannot be determined with certainty. Numerous fragments of wrought iron barrel hoops were recovered from the sites, some of which were still intact and could be measured. While most were likely used in the on-site construction of large casks for holding whale oil, others could have had domestic functions. Before cardboard boxes and inexpensive metal cans, wicker baskets and wooden casks were the most common containers used for many household goods, including flour, ships' biscuit, onions, vinegar, and butter. (33) One of the intact cask hoops at Adventure Bay, seventy-six centimetres in diameter, was located in front of the headsman's house just beside a doorway (Figure 7). It may have been from a water butt used to collect rainwater from the eaves. Two other large hoops were recovered from an outbuilding used for storage while a hoop sixty centimetres in diameter was recovered from the main building at Lagoon Bay. A pair of smaller hoops, only twenty-two centimetres in diameter, was found in a rubbish heap near the storage building at Adventure Bay. These would have been from a smaller cask, possibly for rum or other spirits, though equally possibly for gunpowder. Finally, a brass spigot used to dispense liquids from casks was also recovered from Adventure Bay. Together, this evidence makes it quite clear that liquids, most likely alcohol, were being stored in bulk at the sites.


Supplying the stations

The foodstuffs consumed at Adventure Bay and Lagoon Bay were obtained in a variety of ways. Some of the food was produced by the direct efforts of the men themselves. The native mammals and birds in the assemblage of animal bones from the sites demonstrate that the men did hunt or trap from time to time. However, the quantity of bone suggests that this was not a frequent activity, while the wide variety of species represented suggests that the men were experimenting with what they could effectively hunt and what was worth eating. There were not enough bones of one particular species or group of species to indicate that it was a desired or popular prey. The same is true of the fish, which represented a wide variety of species but a small proportion of the diet overall. Some of the fish, such as snapper, leatherjacket and trevally, which frequent deeper water off-shore, were probably caught by the men from the open whaleboats while waiting for whales to be sighted. It is possible that the albatross, which also lives out at sea, was also hunted in this manner.

The men may also have been responsible for killing and butchering the sheep to produce mutton which Kelly issued as part of the rations. Analysis of the animal bones indicates that the lamb and mutton was fresh meat, not preserved, and must therefore have been butchered on the stations. Live sheep may have been shipped to the stations in small numbers and pastured there for brief periods to ensure fresh supplies. Possibly the cook, or his assistant, would then have been responsible for looking after the live animals as well. Finally, the men would have been responsible for raising any vegetables grown on the stations.

There was little additional on-site production however, or other opportunities to purchase or barter for goods locally. For the most part the men were consumers of food that was produced elsewhere and made available to them by James Kelly. Food supplied to the men as rations formed the basis of the diet, and most of the rations were probably provided as bulk or preserved foods that required only preparation on site. Based on these ingredients and quantities the cook prepared the daily meals for all the men.

Whaling stations, like ships, also had `slops chests', a central store of goods from which additional items could be purchased. (34) These were items not normally included in rations and which the men were expected to supply themselves. `Slops' included clothing, needles, thread, soap, and tobacco. The men purchased the goods on credit, with the amount owed deducted from their lay at the end of the season. Surviving accounts indicate that Kelly's crews could and did obtain clothing, bedding, tin plates and pans, tobacco, and even cash. From the documentary records it does not appear that additional food items could be purchased from slops in order to supplement the bland and monotonous rations. Due to the isolated nature of the stations the men were generally unable to purchase or barter goods from other sources. However, the stations were frequently visited by supply ships and other vessels, and it is possible that trade with the ships' crews could have taken place. (35)

Whether directly as rations or indirectly through slops, owners like James Kelly were responsible for providing the bulk of goods at the stations. Kelly had a wide and varied network of sources from which he obtained his supplies. According to his surviving accounts, most of his goods were obtained from suppliers in Hobart. (36) By the 1820s Hobart was an important shipping centre in the southern Australasian region, and merchants were wholesalers for goods from Britain, Europe, and the other Australian colonies. Because of his shipping activities, Kelly could also obtain goods directly from suppliers in Sydney and London. Salt beef was ordered from butchers in Sydney, prepared to Kelly's own specifications. In March, 1832, Kelly placed an order with Charles Smith of George Street, South Sydney, for twenty-five thousand pounds of `the best ox beef'. Smith agreed `to furnish men to cut up the aforesaid meat in such manner as Captain Kelly should direct fit for sailing'. (37)

Fragments of clay tobacco pipes recovered from Adventure Bay bore the marks of Sydney companies and may also have been purchased in Sydney and shipped by Kelly himself. One pipe was made by Joseph Elliott, who made pipes at his shop at Market Wharf between 1828 and 1844. Another pipe had the mark of Hugh Dixson, a Sydney tobacco merchant in the 1840s and 1850s. (38) Pipes and tobacco were part of the men's personal supplies, so could also have been purchased in Sydney and brought to the stations by individual sailors. Joseph Elliott's pipes have been found on other archaeological sites in Tasmania, so it may be that they were sold through pubs in Hobart itself.

On other occasions Kelly's diverse enterprises enabled him to produce the goods directly. In 1835 he sent his schooner Prince of Denmark on a trading voyage to the Pacific Islands with the object of obtaining salt pork. By agreement with the islanders, who were provided with a range of manufactured goods in exchange, Kelly's men killed and butchered enough hogs to fill the ship with meat, while an additional 89 live animals were shipped back to Hobart. (39) Closer to home, Kelly ran his farm on Bruny Island so that it produced foodstuffs that could then be used by his whaling crews. In 1838 he shipped live sheep directly from the farm to the station at Lagoon Bay, while in 1839 he provided his brig Marianne with sheep, geese, fowls, a sow and two piglets, dozens of eggs, fifteen hundredweight of potatoes, three bushels of wheat and eight bushels of oats. (40)

Preparing and serving meals

However the food was obtained, once on the stations the job of preparing the meals fell to the cook. His importance is indicated by his rate of pay: on the voyage of Kelly's brig Amity sent to whale at Portland Bay, Victoria in 1836, the cook, J. Smith, received a 1/55 lay, or share of the profits. This was much lower than the 1/25 lay for the headsmen John Mansfield and John Tare, the most senior position in each of the whale boat crews, and less than the one 1/45 lay paid to the boatsteerers like Joseph Smith, next in seniority to the headsmen. However, it was greater than the 1/65 lay paid to the ordinary seamen. (41) On board ship the cook ran the kitchen and prepared the meals for the crew, who ate communally. The captain's meals were also prepared by the cook, although the captain and possibly a few senior officers ate in the privacy of the cabin. Cooking and eating arrangements on shore stations are not recorded in documentary sources, but archaeological evidence suggests they resembled shipboard customs.

At both Adventure Bay and Lagoon Bay the excavations revealed one main building and other subsidiary buildings that were smaller and less substantial. Most of the buildings were built of bark or split slabs, and had dirt floors, but the main building at Adventure Bay was built of stone and one or possibly both of the chambers had a flagged stone floor at one time. The smaller buildings, probably crew barracks, consisted of single rooms with small fireplaces. The larger building at each site had two rooms, one of which had a fireplace of brick and stone. In each case the concentration of rubbish, including discarded animal bones, tablewares, and broken bottles and jars, was greatest around the room with the large fireplace. It appears that this room was the communal kitchen for the station, while the adjacent room served as the private quarters for the senior headsman who managed the station.

Analysis of the ways in which the animals were butchered can reveal the kinds of meals eaten. At both stations the meat was commonly prepared by sawing the carcass in half lengthwise, then using a hatchet to chop it into sections for cooking. The bones had not been cut into small pieces, indicating that individual cuts such as chops and steaks were rare. Few of the bones showed cut marks left by the removal of meat before cooking which suggests that the meat was prepared as stews or soups. The types of tablewares used further help to refine this picture. Most of the ceramics recovered were from flatwares, particularly plates, and very few bowls were identified (Table 3). This suggests that the dishes cooked resembled stews rather than the more liquid soups. The deep well common on plates at that time would have been sufficient to contain a meal the consistency of stew.

What is also apparent from the tablewares is that whaling crews were not simply eating off tin plates and drinking from tin cups. Kelly's slops chest accounts and the account books of other whaling entrepreneurs, including Kelly's competitors the Imlay brothers of Hobart and Twofold Bay, record the purchase of tin plates, so they were being used. (42) However, the archaeological remains make it clear that more refined tablewares were also common. China teacups and saucers, plates, and a few bowls were used, as were glass tumblers and wine glasses. The quantity and type of plates found, together with where they were found on the sites, suggests that both the senior headsmen and the crews were using ceramic plates. Crockery was found in all parts of the sites, including both the crew barracks and the senior headsman's quarters. Some of the plates had the more expensive and up-to-date blue transferprinted designs. Other dishes were more old-fashioned and cheaper, including plain creamware plates, plates edged with a scalloped blue design, and even a plate of Chinese export porcelain which would have been fashionable a generation earlier. It is likely that the cheaper plates were used by the crews while the more expensive ones were those of the senior headsman, but this cannot be determined with certainty. In 1837 James Kelly purchased seven dozen ceramic plates, a quantity far greater than he would have needed for household use, and this suggests that he was buying supplies for his crews. (43)

Other tablewares were less common. At Adventure Bay the number of teacups indicates they may have been widely used, but the small quantity identified at Lagoon Bay is more equivocal. One problem with interpreting the Lagoon Bay assemblage is that many of the fragments excavated were very small, which can make precise identification of vessel shape difficult. Nevertheless, it is apparent that some of the men at the stations were drinking tea, and using formal tea equipment like the fashionable black basalt-ware teapot found at Lagoon Bay. Some men were also drinking wine in a formal manner, as is shown by the two stemmed glasses found at Adventure Bay. Some of this formal china and glass may even have been used by James Kelly himself. The captains of ships which met at sea would visit in each other's cabins, exchanging news over a glass of wine. Kelly would have done this many times on his voyages, and may have kept up the custom when visiting the managers of his stations.

The plain glass tumblers found would have been used for drinking ale or spirits. Fewer in number than plates or teacups, Grace Karskens has argued that such vessels are linked to the `circling glass'. (44) This was the traditional custom among working men and women drinking together socially. A single glass would be shared between several drinkers who passed it companionably between them. In that kind of environment fewer glasses would be used, which might help to explain why fewer glasses have been excavated. It is also possible that tin mugs or horn cups were used as drinking vessels but have not survived archaeologically.

The Adventure Bay and Lagoon Bay whaling stations were small industrial outposts, seasonally occupied by groups of men who were frequently regarded by their contemporaries as marginal outcasts. At the same time, the stations were integral components of the Van Diemen's Land economy and social system. Customs and behaviours there cannot be taken as representative of the colony as a whole, but they do provide important insights into what was possible. The foods eaten indicate what was available, from fresh mutton to salt beef and pork and occasional fish and native species. Bread and potatoes were staples, enlivened by flavourful condiments. Sweet tea was the normal drink but wine, ales, and spirits could also be had, accompanied by pipes of tobacco.

For these men, most of whom were British or colonial born of British stock, such foods were comfortable and familiar. Many in the crews were sailors, and to them the diet would have been particularly well-known. Diet is one of the aspects of culture most resistant to change, and for these men, like other settlers in the colonies, being able to eat foods they knew was an important part of maintaining cultural identity. For sailors, the quality and quantity of food was as important as the type. Mouldy bread, maggoty biscuit, and stinking, rotten, meat, was the most common cause for desertion, even mutiny, on whaling ships sailing out of Hobart later in the century. (45) Like convicts working on road gangs, good food was close to the heart of whale crews, more so even than other aspects of their pay and conditions, possibly because it was an immediate need, repeated daily, and a constant reminder of their lack of independence. (46) If anything, the sailors may have been even more sensitive because the cost of the food and drink was deducted from their wages, yet they had no control over its provision. Imprudent owners frequently tried to reduce outfitting costs by purchasing cheaper victuals, usually of a poorer quality. More canny employers however recognised the importance of food in running a successful operation. The large quantities of food stipulated in the crew agreements signed by Kelly's men indicate a tacit acknowledgment of the physically demanding labour performed and the difficult, all-weather working conditions. There is no way of knowing how closely the agreements were adhered to, or what the men's real response was to the foods they were given, but there is no record of desertions from Kelly's shore-based crews because of food.

The mechanisms used to supply the stations reflect the prevailing networks of colonial trade. Manufactured goods such as the tablewares came mainly from Britain, although there was a small but significant local trade as the clay tobacco pipes from Sydney indicate. The condiments, tea, and sugar came from other British colonies including India, China, and West Indies, but most of the foods eaten were produced more locally, with meat, vegetables, and flour all produced in Van Diemen's Land itself. For Kelly and his associates, other colonies and the Pacific basin were also important parts of the network, as the clay tobacco pipes from Sydney and the salt pork from the Pacific Islands show.

Finally, the foods and tablewares reflect the embodiment of colonial social codes. The managers were senior headsmen who had been promoted to positions of greater responsibility because of their own skills and abilities; they exemplified the colonial ideal of success earned by hard work. The material attributes of their earned status were enacted daily as they ate apart from the crews and sat at more fashionably set tables in their private quarters. All however ate the same stews prepared by the same cook. This was no egalitarian workers' paradise: crews worked in dangerous, isolated, and often brutal conditions for very little pay. Nevertheless, it was an environment in which men could advance through their labours and their skills could be rewarded with some of the trappings of comfort and status.

That such benefits could be considered, and utilised, in these rough situations hints at some of the ambiguities that whaling encompassed. (47) The most powerful stereotype of whale crews then and now is of tough, grimy, ignorant, boisterous men, immune to the horrors of their work, squandering their pay on drunken sprees. They were shadowy outcasts, viewed with distaste, and distance, by the wider society that benefited from their toil. While containing elements of truth, this characterisation by no means fully describes the men who went whaling. Equally well-documented, though less powerful in their romantic appeal and largely forgotten today, are contemporary representations of whale men as clean, hard-working labourers struggling to provide for families and to save for farms or their own homes. The men thus depicted fit squarely within the nineteenth-century tradition of working-class respectability and self-improvement. Stemmed wine glasses, fashionable china plates, and fine jasper teapots confirm that describing whale men in such terms is not simply rhetoric or deluded wishful thinking by a few apologists. Whaling stations accommodated both the rowdiest and most profligate of men, and those who aspired to and in some cases eventually achieved the refined gentility of the middle classes. Food, with its burden of symbolism and social meaning, provided one arena in which these tensions were acted out.
 Adventure Bay

 Species Common No. of Weight No. of
 name bones (g) animals
European species
Bos taurus cattle 1238 21756.1 6
Gallus domesticus chicken 3 2.5 1
Ovis aries sheep 1253 6474.7 13
Oryctolagus cuniculus rabbit 74 54.2 5
Sus scrofa pig 131 1257.6 5

sub total 2699 29545.1 30

native mammals

Arctocephalus pusillus Australian
 fur seal 4 9 1
Bettongia gaimardi bettong
Dasyurus viverrinus native cat 1 1.5 1
Hydomys chrysogaster water rat 4 0.9 1
Muridae rats and mice 1 0.2 1
Peramelidae bandicoot 3 2.3 1
Rattus lutreolous swamp rat 2 1.8 1
Thylogale billardierii pademelon 1 3 1
Trichosurus vulpecula brushtail
 possum 5 4.1 1
Vombatus ursinus wombat 1 1.6 1
Pseudocheirus peregrinus ringtail
 possum 6 4.8 1
Macropus (small 1-8 kg) kangaroo 46 164.9 2

sub total 74 194.1 12


Arripis trutta salmon 21 12.1 1
Caesioperca rasor barber fish 31 0.4 1
Chrysophrys auratus snapper 1 0.05 1
Dinolestes lewini pike 217 14.65 3
Monacanthidae leatherjacket 5 0.8 1
Myxus elongatus mullet 36 3.55 1
Platycephalus conatus flathead 39 6.67 2
Pseudoearanx dentex trevally 48 7.5 4
Pseudolabrus tetricus wrasse 13 4.6 4
Sarda australis tuna 1 5.1 1
large fish (>5 kg) 4 7 1
medium fish (1-5 kg) 145 38.4 3
small fish (<1 kg) 223 18 1
unidentified 10 0.65 1

sub total 794 119.47 25 36


Colluricincla harmonica grey thrush 3 1 1
Diomedeidae albatross 4 12 1
Dromaieus novaehollandieae emu 9 76.3 2
Eudyptula minor fairy penguin 23 13.75 4
Larus novaehdlandme silver gull 2 0.6 1
Puffinus tenuirostris mutton bird 12 6.9 4
Strepera fuliginosa currawong 9 2.6 3
large bird (>5 kg) 1 9.4 1
medium bird (1-5 kg) 12 29.1 1
small bird (<1 kg) 27 9.3 1
sub total 102 160.95 19

TOTAL 3669 30019.62 86

 Lagoon Bay

Species Common No. of Weight No. of
 name bones (g) animals
European species

Bos taurus cattle 150 3340.1 1
Gallus domesticus chicken 1 1.3 1
Ovis aries sheep 208 1361.4 5
Oryctolagus cuniculus rabbit 1 3.4 1
Sus scrofa pig 13 152.5 2

sub total 373 4858.7 10

native mammals

Arctocephalus pusillus Australian
 fur seal 2 13.4 1
Bettongia gaimardi bettong 23 10.8 1
Dasyurus viverrinus native cat 1 1.2 1
Hydomys chrysogaster water rat
Muridae rats and mice
Peramelidae bandicoot 1 0.4 1
Rattus lutreolous swamp rat 3 1.2 1
Thylogale billardierii pademelon
Trichosurus vulpecula brushtail
 possum 9 16.2 2
Vombatus ursinus wombat 1 11.5 1
Pseudocheirus peregrinus ringtail
 possum 1 0.6 1
Macropus (small 1-8 kg) kangaroo 12 48.1 3

sub total 53 103.4 12


Arripis trutta salmon 2 1.4 1
Caesioperca rasor barber fish
Chrysophrys auratus snapper 3 0.3 1
Dinolestes lewini pike
Monacanthidae leatherjacket
Myxus elongatus mullet
Platycephalus conatus flathead
Pseudoearanx dentex trevally
Pseudolabrus tetricus wrasse
Sarda australis tuna
large fish (>5 kg)
medium fish (1-5 kg) 4 0.5 1
small fish (<1 kg) 27 1.88 1
sub total 794 4.08 4


Colluricincla harmonica grey thrush
Diomedeidae albatross
Dromaieus novaehollandieae emu
Eudyptula minor fairy penguin
Larus novaehdlandme silver gull
Puffinus tenuirostris mutton bird 5 2.1 1
Strepera fuliginosa currawong
large bird (>5 kg)
medium bird (1-5 kg) 37 18.6 1
small bird (<1 kg) 9 1.8 1

sub total 51 22.5 3

TOTAL 513 4988.68 29

Table 1. Summary of animal bone recovered
 Adventure Bay Lagoon Bay
condiments 12 5
medicine -- 2
beer/wine (black glass) 12 28
beer/wine (green glass) 8 --
gin 3 3
stoneware bottle 1
stoneware jar 1 2

total 37 40

Table 2. Bottles and jars recovered (shown as minimum number
of vessels).
 Adventure Bay * Lagoon Bay

stemmed glass 2 --
tumbler 4 1
sub total 6 1


plates 11 11
cups 10 3
bowls 4
cup/bowl 3
plate/saucer 2 1
serving dish 1
teapot 1
jug 1
vase 1
sub total 23 26
total 29 27

Table 3. Glass and china tablewares (shown as minimum number of

* A single china chamberpot was also represented in the collection but
has not been included here.


(1) M. Douglas, In the Active Voice, London, 1982; M. Visser, Much Depends on Dinner: the extraordinary history and mythology, allure and obsessions, perils and taboos, of an ordinary meal, Toronto, 1986.

(2) K.T.H. Farrer, A Settlemen Amply Supplied: food technology in nineteenth century Australia, Melbourne, 1980; A. Gollan, The Tradition of Australian Cooking, Canberra, 1978; G. Karskens, Inside the Rocks: the archaeology of a neighbourhood, Sydney, 1999, chapter 2; M. Symons, One Continuous Picnic: a history of eating in Australia, Adelaide, 1982; R.B. Walker and D.C.K. Roberts, From Scarcity to Surfeit: a history of food and nutrition in New South Wales, Sydney, 1988.

(3) G. Blainey, The Tyranny of Distance, South Melbourne, 1966, p. 115; K. Evans, Shore Based Whaling in Tasmania Historical Research Project. Volume 1: a social and economic history, Hobart, 1993, pp. 30, 31; B. Little, `The sealing and whaling industry in Australia before 1850', Australian Economic History Review, vol. 2, 1969, pp. 109-27.

(4) M. Nash, `A survey of the Tasmanian shore-based whaling industry' in S. Lawrence and M. Staniforth (eds), The Archaeology of Whaling in Southern Australia and New Zealand, Canberra, 1998, pp. 21-8.

(5) K.M. Bowden, Captain James Kelly of Hobart Town, Melbourne, 1964; Evans, pp. 11-13, 28-31, 34-5, 59-61.

(6) Memorial from James Kelly and Richard Pybus, Colonial Secretary's Office, 11/675/14964, Public Records Office, Tasmania.

(7) Archaeological investigation was carried out under the auspices of AWSANZ (Archaeology of Whaling in Southern Australia and New Zealand), a collaborative project between La Trobe and Flinders Universities and heritage management agencies throughout southern Australia. The excavations, in 1997 and 1999, were funded by La Trobe University and an Australian Research Council Industry Collaborative SPIRT grant in partnership with the Department of Parks and Wildlife Tasmania. The support of Tom and Cynthia Dunbabin is also gratefully acknowledged.

(8) Evans, p. 28; M. Howard, `The Imlay Brothers' account book, 1837-1840', Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings, vol. 45, no. 4, 1998, pp. 229-36.

(9) S. Chamberlain, The Hobart whaling industry 1840-1900. Ph.D. thesis, La Trobe University, 1988; J. Buttrose, Trypots and teacups: representations of the Van Diemen's Land whalemen. Honours thesis, La Trobe University, 1998.

(10) Articles of Agreement, the Amity, and Account of cash paid to the crew of the Marianne, 1836, Kelly papers, C12182, State Library of Tasmania (SLT).

(11) N.J.B. Plomley, Friendly Mission: The Tasmanian journals and papers of George Augustus Robinson 1829-1834, Hobart, 1966, pp. 68-74

(12) Evans, pp. 43-44; Chamberlain, pp. 227-33.

(13) Crew agreement 1836, Kelly papers, C12182, SLT; C. Tucker, A Whaler's Ration: a comparison of the faunal remains from Adventure Bay and Lagoon Bay shore-based whaling stations in Tasmania. Honours thesis, La Trobe University, 1999, p. 28.

(14) Gollan, p. 68.

(15) C. Lloyd, `Victualling of the Fleet in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries' in J. Watt, E.J. Freeman and W.F. Bynum (eds), Starving Sailors: the influence of nutrition upon naval and maritime history, Greenwich, England, 1981, p. 10.

(16) 1836 crew agreements, Kelly papers, C12182, SLT; S. Nicholas, Convict Workers: reinterpreting Australia's past, Cambridge, 1988, pp. 183-87.

(17) For more detailed analysis see S. Lawrence and C. Tucker, `Sources of Meat in Colonial Diets: Faunal Evidence from a Nineteenth-Century Tasmanian Whaling Station', Environmental Archaeology in press; C. Tucker, A Whaler's Ration.

(18) Chamberlain, p. 122.

(19) Karskens, Inside the Rocks, p. 65.

(20) A. English, `Salted Meats from the Wreck of the William Salthouse: archaeological analysis of nineteenth-century butchering patterns', Australian Journal of Historical Archaeology, vol. 8, 1990, pp. 63-9; M. Nash, Cargo for the Colony: the wreck of the merchant ship Sydney Cove, Sydney, 1997; M. Staniforth, `The Casks from the Wreck of the William Salthouse', Australian Journal of Historical Archaeology, vol. 5, 1987, pp. 21-8; D. Steele, The hungry years re-visited: dietary evidence from the wreck of an 18th century merchant ship en route to Port Jackson, unpublished report for Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, 1995.

(21) C. Shammas, The Pre-Industrial Consumer in England and America, Oxford, 1990, pp. 136-37.

(22) Walker and Roberts, pp. 5, 19.

(23) Evans, p. 45.

(24) Chamberlain, pp. 116-24.

(25) Kelly to James Hewitt, 24 June 1841, Kelly papers, C12182, SLT; Evans, p. 45.

(26) Evans, p. 45; Hobart Town Courier, 16 August 1828.

(27) P. Kostoglou, Shore Based Whaling in Tasmania Archaeological Research Project. Volume 1: industry overview and recommendations, Department of Parks and Wildlife Tasmania, 1995, p. 30.

(28) Bowden, p. 87.

(29) O. Jones and E. A. Smith, Glass of the British Military ca. 1755-1820, Ottawa, 1985, pp. 60-7.

(30) Shammas, p. 84; Karskens, Inside the Rocks, p. 66.

(31) Kelly to James Hewitt, 24 June 1841, Kelly papers, C12182, SLT.

(32) J. Boow, Early Australian Commercial Glass: manufacturing processes, Sydney, 1992, p. 186ff; J. Busch, `Second time around: a look at bottle reuse', Historical Archaeology, vol. 21, 1987, pp. 67-80; M. Carney, `A Cordial Factory at Parramatta, New South Wales', Australasian Historical Archaeology, vol. 16, 1999, pp. 80-93; P. Morgan, Glass Bottles from the William Salthouse, Honours thesis, La Trobe University, 1991.

(33) E. Hattori, and J. Kosta, `Packed pork and other foodstuffs from the California gold rush' in A. Pastron and E. Hattori (eds), The Hoff Store Site and Gold Rush Merchandise from San Francisco, California, Society for Historical Archaeology Special Publication Series no. 7, 1990, pp. 82-93; M. Staniforth, `The Casks from the William Salthouse'.

(34) Chamberlain, p. 230; L. Flanagan, Colonial Enterprise: The View from a Nineteenth Century Whaling Station, Honours thesis, La Trobe University, 1999, pp. 55-6; M. Colwell, Whaling Around Australia, Sydney, 1969, pp. 48-9.

(35) Flanagan, p. 58.

(36) Flanagan, p. 53; H. Morton, The Whaler's Wake, Dunedin, 1982, p. 147; memorandum dated 20 March 1832, Kelly papers, C12182, SLT.

(37) Memo between C. Smith and J. Kelly dated 20 March 1832, Kelly papers, C12182, SLT.

(38) The clay pipes from Adventure Bay were analysed by Jennifer Curl: J. Curl, Report on clay tobacco pipes from the Kelly and Lucas whaling station at Adventure Bay, Bruny Island, Tasmania, unpublished report, La Trobe University, 1998; G. Wilson, and A. Kelly, Preliminary Analysis of Clay Tobacco Pipes from the First Government House Site, Sydney, Sydney, 1985, p. 2; D. Gojak and I. Stuart, `The Potential for the Archaeological Study of Clay Tobacco Pipes from Australian Sites', Australasian Historical Archaeology, vol. 17, 1999, p. 45.

(39) Bowden, p. 83

(40) Bowden, pp. 86-7; account book 1836, Kelly papers, C12182, SLT.

(41) Crew agreement, Amity, 1836, Kelly papers, C12182, SLT.

(42) Slops accounts of the brig Amity, 1836, Kelly papers, C12182, SLT; Account book of the Imlay brothers, 1837-1840, A3031, Dixson Library, Sydney.

(43) Flanagan, p. 56.

(44) Karskens, Inside the Rocks, pp. 72-4.

(45) Chamberlain, p. 120-2.

(46) G. Karskens, `Defiance, Deference and Diligence: three views of convicts in New South Wales road gangs', Australian Journal of Historical Archaeology, vol. 4, p. 22.

(47) These issues have been canvassed by John Buttrose in Trypots and teacups.
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Author:Lawrence, Susan
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Date:Dec 1, 2001
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